The Covid pandemic may be nearing a close, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
New weekly deaths reached their lowest point last week since March 2020. The WHO recorded around 11,000 deaths globally from the week of Sept. 5-11, a 22% decrease from the week prior.
New weekly cases also fell 28% in that time, from nearly 4.2 million during the week of August 29 to Sept. 4 to around 3.1 million last week, according to the WHO.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Wednesday briefing. “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
U.S. Covid deaths, however, have stayed relatively flat, with little change over the last two weeks, according to NBC News’ tally.
The U.S. is recording a weekly average of 478 Covid deaths per day, which is far above its lowest rate ever. The country has yet to match the low from early July 2021: The seven-day average on July 6 was just 168 daily deaths. In June 2022, the average dropped as low as 258 daily deaths.
However, new recorded Covid cases have declined 14% in the last two weeks to fewer than 73,000 per day, on average.
White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said last week that although the pandemic isn’t over, the U.S. has seen “an important shift in our fight against the virus.”
The newly available bivalent booster shots, which target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, could provide better protection against both infection and transmission, as well as more lasting protection against severe illness, Jha said.
But Tedros warned on Wednesday that countries might see “more variants, more deaths, more disruption and more uncertainty” if they ease up on efforts to test, vaccinate and treat.
The WHO is responsible for declaring an end to Covid as a public health emergency of international concern, a designation it reserves for the most serious global disease outbreaks. Tedros did not indicate on Wednesday that such a declaration was imminent.
Instead, the WHO outlined six key actions to help countries end their outbreaks, including continued testing, treatment and vaccinations, infection control in healthcare facilities, combating misinformation and clear public communication.
“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view,” Tedros said. “She runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we. We can see the finish line. We’re in a winning position. But now is the worst time to stop running.”
Aria Bendix is the breaking health reporter for NBC News Digital.